I had an old friend ask me the other day what they, as a straight Christian person, could do to help the Church reconcile itself with the LGBT community. This is always a hard question to answer for me. Firstly, my own experience with “reconciliation” has always come through talking with people and sharing stories. It’s through listening that people can do some of the most important work. But do you all know what straight people tend to be really bad at? Listening. They have preconceived notions of what is proper, or correct, or what my own experience is, without learning about what that experience has actually been.
I will admit that at first many heterosexuals tend to seem like they are welcoming. When I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for Pride, a friend and I were stopped by some evangelists on the street who asked us if we were Christians. They talked a lot about love and how all were welcome in the Church and how “sin was sin” and none was greater than another etc. But when we asked them outright whether the sins they were referring to had to do with us being practicing homosexuals, they waffled for a while, and then admitted that yes, they were there because they wanted to save us from some kind of eternal damnation. When we explained that we were both believers already, they refused to accept it. It became a discussion about what the Bible “REALLY” says about the sin of my friend and I. We tried to point out to them errors in translation and interpretation, how we didn’t see the verses that they were showing us talking about our relationships, but there was an intrinsic part of their perspective that did not allow for them to take time to consider another opinion, or even to stop trying to talk over us.
This was super frustrating for both of us. Not only because the experience itself had been somewhat infuriating, but also because they assumed that neither of us were truly Christians because we had a difference in belief. Our acceptance of the fact that we were gay and that was not going to change, for them, was a one way ticket to hell. Rather than sitting down with us to learn about our respective journeys, they created a situation where they quite obviously felt they knew better than we did, and it was only through their Jesus that I could come into fellowship with God. Not just Jesus, but the Jesus that THEY had created out of their own interpretations of often poorly translated sections of English scripture.
One common thread that I know exists among LGBT Christians is that we do the work. We put years of effort into figuring out our own sexualities or genders. This often includes incredibly rigorous study of scripture, biblical commentary, history, anthropology, ancient languages, and theology, to the extent that if you put a bunch of seminary students in a room with a roomful of queer Christian Arts majors, there would be an evenly matched back and forth among the two groups. So it will not surprise many of you to hear that it pisses most of us off when friends and strangers push “But doesn’t the Bible say?” questions onto us. They are patronizing and show that you haven’t put the hours into this issue that you need to be able to engage with us on this topic. And listening to fire and brimstone sermons about the homosexual threat doesn’t count as putting in hours.
This is not to say that straight people cannot have differing opinions. But if you feel the need to impose those opinions onto other people, ESPECIALLY when you have not experienced their own struggles with the poor treatment of LGBT people by Christians just like them, then I am going to need you to sit down and shut up. If you have questions of me, by all means ask them. Just do not expect for my convictions to change because of your biblical hermeneutic that has no nuance beyond what the (highly politicised) institutions of Church have translated for you.
If you want to love LGBT Christians, and yet cannot be affirming of our “lifestyle”, the most loving thing that you can do is not to try and speak truth into their lives. We’ve heard enough of that “truth” to last a lifetime. Instead, invite us into your homes, your Christian schools, your churches, and don’t be offended when we refuse, politely or otherwise. Be kind, listen to our stories, and if you want to know more about what our journeys or justifications are, ask us. Don’t insert pointed questions about what the Bible says. Listen to what we have to say, and leave it at that. And if you don’t have an EXCELLENT relationship with this person already, then don’t bother doing that either. Not unless you are willing to answer uncomfortable questions about your internet history, or why you still talk to your divorced parents, or why you haven’t stoned your children to death for disobedience. It’s not worth the damage that you do to people who are already often hurting.